Sunday, July 5, 2009

Shame on you Nobu!

Shame on you Nobu!

Nobu Moscow
20 Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street, Building 1
+7 495 645 3191
2 out of 5 Grains of Rice
(Prices in Roubles with exchange rate of 30 R to $1)

Senior Roving Correspondent Lily C.

In researching the top culinary sights for my upcoming trip to Moscow, I came across an article announcing that Nobu opened a branch in Moscow this past April. Apparently, Russians are wild for sushi so much so that Nobu (with Robert De Niro as one of his investors) decided that Moscow was worthy of one his eponymously named restaurants. I, being a Nobu virgin, decided this was a perfect opportunity to pop my cherry. My dining companion and I arrived at the well appointed entry for Nobu in a fancy part of downtown Moscow near the Kremlin and were promptly whisked to the fourth floor restaurant. The decor was upscale japanese hip meaning dark wood interior with interesting wooden bird nests lighting fixtures. The service was attentive and well paced (and if only the waiter had fresher breath it would have rated 5 stars).

The food however was another story entirely. I admit I had very high expectations for Nobu. I have read so many glowing reviews of Nobu in NYC and Matsuhisa in LA over the years that I expected the food to be amazing. Instead what we got was ehhh. To be fair, we did book dinner on a Sunday because it was the only day that worked with our schedule (a no-no for the sushi aficionado since the last fish delivery is usually on Fridays) but that still is no excuse. Overall, I would rate it on par with any decent sushi restaurant in LA but at wildly outrageous prices (even considering the exchange rate and generally expensiveness of Moscow).

It started out so well with a first course of thin slices of whitefish with long slivers of fresh chive and ginger in a ponzu sauce (1000 R). The fish was fresh and the sauce delicious. We also thought the presentation with a parboiled skinned tomato flower was very pretty. So far a strong start.

The next course was the famous black cod with miso (1950 R). For $65, I expected to be brought to tears by perfection. What we got instead was a decent piece of miso cod, but again nothing to write home about. It was a bit on the sweet side for my taste and a tad overcooked. The cod could have been silkier.

Next up was hamachi kama, one of my favorite japanese dishes (560 R). Here, Nobu did not disappoint. The collar was a nice size and grilled well. But, it is hard to ruin hamachi kama as long as you start with good fish.

We then had a tempura sampler course consisting of various vegetables (onions, mushroom, tomato, sweet potato) and shrimp (950 R). The sign of great tempura is lightness. This was not it. We thought it was a greasy and heavy (and crazy expensive at just over $30).


Finally, our last course was the sashimi dinner (3000 R). If anything, I thought this would be where Nobu would shine since the very essence of a sushi restaurant should be fresh fish. Oh how wrong I was. This was by far the worst course of the night. We were presented with red tuna, yellowtail, crab, salmon, white fish, shrimp and octopus. The salmon was by far the freshest and tastiest fish on the plate. But, that is no surprise since Russians know their way around salmon and will not put up with inferior cuts. The octopus, not usually a favorite, was also good here too. It was tender and flavorful. The white fish and crab were decent. The rest was downhill in a major way. The yellowtail was chewy. The shrimp had this weird aftertaste that was decidedly gross. Finally, the tuna was fishy, at least 2 days old and should not have been served. In fact, my dining companion felt the ill effects of this tuna shortly thereafter. Luckily, I have an iron stomach. Still, not a very satisfactory ending to my first Nobu experience.